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Haitham Hamoda, a consultant gynaecologist who leads the menopause unit at King’s College Hospital London, and is a member of the British Menopause Society’s Medical Advisory Council, speaks for many of his peers when he says the health risks of HRT are actually ‘very small when put into context’. Some women do not like the idea of taking hormones, and aren’t willing to consider any risk at all.But for others, it comes down to a case of individually balancing the risks against the benefits.The private clinics argue that they offer an individually tailored cocktail of hormones (including testosterone in the mix if required) in a single cream or daily lozenge which dissolves against the gum.‘The dose can be tweaked to suit the patient,’ says Dr Amalia Annaradnam, a GP at the Marion Gluck clinic.A growing number maintain that both the 2002 study and last year’s Lancet report involved women who were post menopausal and taking less sophisticated forms of HRT than those now available.They say the findings don’t reflect the risks for menopausal women today.But a hugely influential study in 2002 changed everything.
It was just frustrating because I didn’t want to feel like that was that — and it made me feel a bit old.
‘A sudden stop to HRT means oestrogen receptors throughout the body switch from full to empty, and the impact in terms of symptoms can be similar to a sudden menopause,’ she says.
The effect can be reduced by switching to a lower dose HRT for three to six months before stopping.
We know that a woman’s genetic makeup can have a significant impact on her likelihood of developing ovarian cancer, particularly in the case of mutations in the BRCA1/2 genes.’Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, a GP specialist in women’s health and spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, says: ‘Don’t let the bad publicity put you off considering treatment if symptoms are affecting your life.‘HRT is not a villain: it is a drug with benefits and harms.
Eighty per cent of women will suffer symptoms at menopause, and for 20 per cent of women the symptoms will be severe.